Why Be Jewish?

It is the Torah that made the Jewish family a warm and close unit where respect and love dwelt in necessary harmony. It was this Torah that turned out youngsters whose passion in life was not drugs and kicks and violent sadism, but the famous kometz, aleph-aw. And it was from the little Torah cheder that scholarly giants of the earth came forth to teach sweet morality and true goodness.

If you want an answer, do not seek an easy one. If you want to be a Jew - be the one that always existed. Seize the mainstream of Judaism, no matter how difficult it may be. Let me suggest to you a few points of departure:

1. That life is short and meaningless if its purpose becomes the mere pursuit of pleasure. That unless we are to go mad, there must be something more to this brief candle.

2. The knowledge that the Jew is different and exclusive; that he has a role to play which will determine his and the world's destiny; that the Torah turns him, his people, and in the end all humanity into a holy and meaningful entity.

3. That Torah cannot endure with simple practice, but is based upon deep and never-ending study, and that without scholarship, Judaism degenerates into the joke of the Long Island temple.

4. That only if we believe that the Torah is Divine will we submit to its will, for if it is just a product of "clever" rabbis, surely you will be convinced that you are as clever as they.

5. That the Jewish people is bound together by common destiny, and that this imposes upon each one an obligation to love and rush to the aid of each and every other Jew; that the Jew has no permanent allies except his own people; that for the Jew, Jewish problems come first; that we measure our responses by the yardstick: Is it good and right for the Jew?

These are the principles; now go and study them. Study; learn. Learn Torah, for only Torah and Torah knowledge can make you the kind of Jew that you must be.
"The ignorant Jew cannot be pious" - this is the deepest of all truths. So find yourself a rabbi, a teacher. But make sure that he believes in what he is teaching. Make sure he is an honest man who does what he preaches and who can give you the truth that he has in his heart. Torah: go drink deeply from its waters.

You are young and you have the choice that the Almighty gives to all, young and old: life or death, good or evil, truth or illusion. If you choose the transitory pleasures of your present chapter of life, you will awaken some day with the taste of ashes in your mouth. If you really believe that the things for which our people struggled and fought and died and then continued to live for so long, are so cheap that they can be thrown away for a job or a girl - surely you will awaken one day with a broken heart and a broken soul. And you will follow the path of all the foolish and disillusioned Jews who saw in Emancipation and Enlightenment an opportunity for "freedom" and "growth." Their paths led to the dead ends of Auschwitz or the bankruptcy of lives that give neither satisfaction nor permanence.

Consider what you had and threw away! You were part of a people that was trampled upon, spat upon, burned and drowned, hanged and shot, gassed and buried alive. And they existed in spite of all these. You were part of a people that did not fall prey to the moral disasters of crime, immorality and cultural anarchy, but created geniuses and men of morality and ethics. While others beat their wives, Jews respected them. While others rolled in the gutter drunk with whiskey, the Jew raised his Kiddush cup to G-d. While others dabbled at Inquisitions and conquests, the Jew bent over his Talmud and created warmth, kindness and scholarship. While others worshiped idols, the Jew embraced the One G-d.

In a sense, you have no
right to run because you owe an obligation to the unborn child who will someday come from you, to remain with his people - the people of his grandparents and great-grandparents and ancestors from Poland and Russia and Yemen and France and Spain and Babylonia.

We lose so many of our best sons and daughters. Some die as those in Munich, in a blare of publicity, but many more are buried quietly and we never even know they are gone until we suddenly find them missing. These are the ones who fall before the enemy called Assimilation. These are the ones who never knew or, worse, forgot that Jewish is, oh, so beautiful. The ones who sell their precious birthright for a few cheap coins and pleasures. They think they are finding freedom and happiness; only later, too late, do they realize that they died in the bloom of youth.

Young Jew... whom I have never met, come home. Return to your people and their destiny. It is beautiful. You are young and for you, Return is simple. And know that your life can only be lived in one place. Home. The Land of Israel. It is a large land. Extending from the Mediterannean to the Jordan, from Hermon through Sinai to Sharm-al-Sheaykh. It stands, capable of absorbing millions, many millions of its sons and daughters who have not yet come. It is the land where one cannot move without colliding with the Jewish past. This is the land where Abraham walked and Isaac and Jacob traveled; where David and Saul fought the enemy and Deborah and Samson smote the foe; where the Prophets raised their eyes unto the heavens and spoke to the people; where the Maccabees preserved Judaism with the sword and where the Sanhedrin and Ben Zakkai continued it with the book; where Bar Kochba died and where his children will return. Here is Eretz Yisrael; here is your home.

What a glorious challenge you have been given! The gauntlet has been thrown down before you, and you must climb the heights of greatness! Aliyah, going up to the land, this is the task at hand. Leave behind the dust of Exile, the terrible fate that awaits us, our enemies of the Diaspora who thirst for our blood and plan yet another Auschwitz. Make your plans to leave the graveyards of Galut and live in our own land - free, a majority, alive. Guarantee the preservation of your children and children's children. Watch them grow tall and tanned, strong and proud, secure and sovereign.

You need this land and it needs you, many of you. Millions of new Jews pouring into Israel will fill up its empty spaces, guarantee the retention of all the liberated lands of Judea, Samaria, Golan, Gaza and Sinai; assure a vast Jewish majority despite the addition of a million new non-Jews; add Western democratic and technical skills to the land. Eretz Yisrael will never again be lost to us...

What a moment in history! How wonderful it would be if we were to understand it, clutch at it, become part of it.

By Rabbi Meir Kahane
Why Be Jewish?
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